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A Long Wait

My apologies, dear readers, for having let this site slide for so long. I have been involved in many projects lately, including finish Rising Home, gaffering for Leesley Films, and beginning pre-production for a new film this summer called “Reprise”, the story of a man struggling to keep up hope while protecting his sister from the drug operation of his past.

Communication

Roll film.

You’ve just rolled out a hundred page screenplay. Now what? Go out there and start shooting!

But you don’t really believe that. Can you tell me why you don’t believe it?

Because everything in a movie communicates something.

You knew this when you started writing your screenplay; this is why you wrote your screenplay: you had something to say. From this point on, you have to tell the story with pictures. Film is not just words and actions, film is literally a series or pictures. What you want to tell your audience determines what kind of picture you create.

This is confusing, right? The words tell the story, right?

Only very little of it. The words reveal the tip of the iceberg; they hint at what lies below. In order for your audience to understand the iceberg below the surface, you must first understand the iceberg itself. If the screenplay you are trying to film is one you’ve written, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble. If not, then you will have to read the screenplay to determine not only its core ideal, but the ideas behind each scene.

Communication. How do we communicate the story’s idea? We communicate the story’s idea by evoking emotional responses to particular ideas, words, and action from the audience by means of acting, camera angles, lighting, costumes, sound, music, and even set design. The emotional effects of each of these fields must be considered before shooting, and must be planned to achieve that effect which will direct the audience to the film’s ultimate conclusion. Otherwise, the movie will seem incoherent and meaningless.

Remember, film is visual.

25 Ideas That Will Help You Live on Purpose

Some very good thoughts on living life with direction by my friend Andrew Miller.

Notes on Writing Treatments

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Author’s Website

Dear Readers,

I wish to take a moment to invite you to my new personal website. Here you will find my works in both film and music.

Have you ever got the urge to write, and then promptly proceed to follow that urge and write away? What do you write about?

Could be anything. Could be politics, religion, or what you fed your dog last night. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t very coherent, was it? Probably not very organized, either.

It also wasn’t very long. A mere point can be made in a sentence, or even one word. Points don’t make up books, plays, or screenplays. Points don’t last for a hundred-plus pages.

Writers have something to say. No, not just words, something beyond that: an idea. Everyone communicates their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Writers communicate their ideas. Ideas can’t be communicated in words, sentences, paragraphs or pages; ideas must be communicated through proofs and arguments.

Communication of ideas are what separate a writer from a rambler. “Rambler” is used here not to denote someone who communicates something other than ideas, but rather one who tries to write without an idea. What does it become? Often something that can be thought of as a “ramble” (or a “rant” when the writer is excessively frustrated).

Basic writing format requires a thesis. This is the unifying idea of a paper. The thesis is introduced, supported, and then concluded. Often, for academic purposes, the supporting points to a thesis will be facts. But for the artistic writer, this thesis will often include subordinate ideas. This is imperative for the screenwriter. Throughout the course of the screenplay, different ideas are introduced, tested, and either proven or disproven in such a manner that the main idea – the thesis – is proved.

Academic writers speak to the brain; artistic writers speak to the soul.

Author G.K. Chesterton on..

 Competition between blonde actresses.

PRESENTED in very large letters on the leader page of a leading daily paper, I find the statement that “the problem that besets the most limpid of all America’s blonde actresses . . . is too many riches.” Gazing at this announcement, I fell into a trance of reflection, like those in which many modern writers have seen visions of the future. But I was only wondering in a vague way what an average society, supposing it to be restored to an average sanity, would really make of a sentence like that–if it were preserved like a papyrus or a hieroglyphic in some museum of the future. It is true, and our remote descendants might from other sources have discovered it to be true, that Americans in the nineteenth and even twentieth century have had a curious passion for competitions. Nothing is more popular as a topic in the transatlantic Press than the action of somebody who has been insane enough to select the Six Best Songs or the Seven Best Sonnets or the Ten Best Tales of True Romance. In some moral matters Americans have a real enthusiasm for equality; and their democratic instincts are very deep and will not easily be uprooted, even in these undemocratic days. But in other intellectual matters, perhaps because they really care less about intellectual matters, they may be said to have a passion for inequality. That is, they have a passion for classification; and they treat it as a sort of prodigiously and portentously solemn sport. Some complain that their sport is not sporting. I would not go so far; but I think it is even truer of them than of us that their sport is not sportive. Therefore they enter with excitement upon these scientific sports, which are supposed to deal with statistics and averages, but draw their inner life from an intense love of comparison and competition. All these scientific judgments are really modelled on the simple artistic judgment, which I once heard from a most charming American amid the landscape of the Alps: “Well, I can’t see, when you’ve seen the highest mountain in Switzerland, what you want to see any more for.” In his view the various Alpine peaks had run a sort of race, and the peak that reached the highest point was superior in that and every other respect. When we really understand that, we can sympathize with pie-eating contests or men sitting for weeks on end in a tree–or even with less intelligent enterprises, like committees for Eugenic legislation or Intelligence Tests designed to discover whether immigrants from the countries of Dante or Copernicus are or are not human beings.

So far all is clear; or shall we say limpid? This appetite for competition and comparison is a national characteristic like any other; sometimes inspiriting, sometimes amusing; we can sympathize with it, and our posterity might in some degree sympathize with it. So long as it measures the height of foreign mountains or the contour of foreigners’ skulls, it is at least measuring things that are measurable. And there is a good deal of innocent fun in it, even when it is applied where it is obviously inapplicable; to measure things that are in their nature immeasurable. It might be quite amusing to capture every wandering Pegasus, ridden by every lonely poet, and organize them all with weights and handicaps as a horse-race. It might be entertaining to record that the sea-shanty of The Drunken Sailor has closed in a dead heat with the _Dies Irae,_ or that “Sally in Our Alley” has beaten “I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby” by a length and a half. I have no very clear idea what it means, but those who organize it certainly mean no harm. Also, to do them justice, they are generally thinking about things that are to some extent practical and real; such as popularity or power of emotional effectiveness on particular occasions; sometimes, I fear, they are thinking about things still more practical, such as money. Up to a point, I am willing to be excited when they discuss what is the most popular song or the most beautiful woman; though I never saw the picture of a prizewinner in any Beauty Competition without thinking that I knew several better-looking women living in my own street. I should therefore accept, with a slight sigh, the statement that somebody was the most beautiful of all America’s blonde actresses. But surely it is by some more curious convolutions of thought that anybody can reach so firm and fixed a belief that she is “the most limpid of all America’s blonde actresses.”

It seems to be assumed that all America’s blonde actresses are engaged in a fierce competition for limpidity–whatever that may be. Not without bitter rivalries and breathless jealousies has the peculiar palm been won. Challenges have been issued to the multitudinous towns and villages of the vast prairies and the wide, open spaces where blondes are blondes. Indignant families have declared that our Sadie is as limpid as any of these dames down east; and Clytie has told her sisters that she means to be just as limpid as she knows how. The cry of “Limpid is my middle name” has resounded from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and numberless aspirants have assured themselves that they are just too limpid to live–before this tremendous trial of strength was decided. Possibly its echoes may have been heard even in foreign lands, and inspired the blondes of other races; except, I presume, the negro race, among whom blondes are said to be comparatively rare. The French soldier, sinking to repose to the charming tune of “Aupres de ma blonde qui fait bon dormi,” may rouse himself with a start of suspicion and hiss the fatal question: “But is she limpid?” The German Hitlerite, now prostrate in worship of the Blonde Beast, which is his version of the Blonde Beauty, may wonder for a moment whether it is wholly, utterly, and completely limpid; which, to judge by the new German ideals as explained in the old German literary style, it is not. But in that respect the most obscure German diction is not much more bewildering than our own journalistic diction. What are we to say about that indescribable sort of newspaper writing to be noted in the example I have given? What in the world does all this sort of thing mean; and what are the vague and vast implications behind it? Why is the writer so frightfully certain that the lady is the most limpid of all American blondes, and what precisely does he mean by the epithet? The present age may be producing the most limpid blondes, but hardly the most limpid writers.

The truth is that the sort of journalism which now specially professes to be fresh, up to date, on the spot, and as new as the latest news, is, in a very peculiar sense, a residuum of stale things out of the past; an accumulation of antiquated associations of which the very origin is lost, and more like the end of everything than the beginning of anything. It is always using terms that have grown colourless through oblivion of their original context, which are now used rather with a hazy appreciation of their sound than a logical appreciation of their sense. I have called it indescribable; and it is really very difficult to describe. It goes far beyond what was once condemned as journalese, in the sense of being jaunty and even vulgar. It is a sort of jargon drawn from all sorts of languages, some of them aesthetic or scientific in origin; all these scraps of culture are now loose in the world; but, though everything is loose, nothing is lost, except the tradition of how to treat them reasonably. We have turned scientific language into a sort of slang; the sort of slang that is used to save trouble. Anybody can talk about problems and nobody need bother about solutions; anybody is free to talk about a complex so long as he can ignore its complexity; anybody can borrow a word from the studios or the workshops, so long as he does not pay it back by making any study or doing any work.Some people seem ready to call this limpid; but I should be inclined to call it limp. The increasing inconclusiveness of most articles in the Press and elsewhere seems to me the most disquieting mark of our mental development. It is not found only in sentimental and sensational headlines, such as that I have quoted; indeed, the end of such an article is even more limp than the beginning. We may yet live to regret the passing of the political party slanging-match or the mere newspaper sensation. They were at least limpid.
~G.K. Chesterton, As I Was Saying

A Good Movie

There seems to be some confusion regarding what we often call a “good movie”. Often, we will say a movie is good, but remark about the bad content of the particular movie. Can a movie be both good and bad?

When addressing the nature of the whole movie, we must always call a movie “bad”, because movies are made by flawed people. It is true that some movies are more worth watching than others, but we must be careful not to say that a movie is completely bad when we only mean that one aspect of the movie’s moral communication is bad. How can a movie communicate both bad and good morality? By means of three separate channels.

The first channel is that of what could be labeled as the atmosphere. This is the face value of what the characters habitually say and do and what we see of the world around them. These are the trivial and least important elements of the movie, as they are only taken in and judged for their intrinsic value. Say, for example, a person walks into a room and says to another person “hello”. This dialog would be an atmospheric element, because it only has the face value of a casual greeting; this is what goes on in the world of the movie on a day-to-day basis.
The atmosphere of a movie never changes; the morals revealed by the atmosphere are always apparent, and are the least important by the standards of the movie.

The next channel is that of the theme. The theme of the movie is readily apparent to the audience. It is the moral confirmation of the goal of the protagonist; he/she possesses this confirmation throughout the movie, and will always be correct in this regard, because the audience sympathizes with the protagonist.
The theme of the movie never changes; the theme is always apparent, and is the prioritizing of the goal as the most important moral by the standards of the movie.

The moral deals with the part of himself/herself that the protagonist must give up to satisfy the justification of the theme in order to reach the goal. In most successful movies, the protagonist is flawed. This flaw is usually an undue attachment to a behavioral trait; a means perceived to be needed for personal satisfaction or defense. The moral is the law of the movie, and is implied, like a thesis for a paper.
The protagonist’s understanding of the moral is incomplete until his/her moment of realization; the moral is only seen through the eyes of the central character, defines the chief measure to be taken in order to reach the goal, and is the final conclusion of the viewer.

To illustrate these three channels, consider a mother searching for her lost child. The mother divorced her husband some time ago, and rejects the ex-husband’s desire for reconciliation because of her unforgiveness. The mother only has one child, will find her at all costs. She begins searching for her child, but is overly suspicious of truckers. So, the mother will not ask a trucker concerning the whereabouts of her child. Instead, her inquiry includes every last US citizen within a hundred miles of her hometown. No one can tell the mother anything, so she is forced to return home. But, before she reaches her front door, a trucker approaches her with her child’s watch. The trucker has an idea where the child is, and offers to take the mother there. The mother agrees. Along the way, the mother learns that the trucker is divorced. His ex-wife left for another man, and the trucker is unwilling to forgive her. The mother shares her own dilemma, and encourages the trucker to continue to do justice to his ex and not forgive her. In the end, they find the child, and the mother admits to her child that this trucker wasn’t such a bad one after all, but that her ex-husband still deserves to be in the doghouse.
The unforgiveness of the mother is included in the atmosphere, and conveys that taking justice into one’s own hands is morally good. However, this is of minimal importance in the movie, because it has nothing to do with the central character’s main goal or with what she learns while trying to reach her goal.
The main goal of the mother is to find her child. The audience will emotionally justify the morality of her goal because they will sympathize with her loss of her only child. The theme of the movie is about the importance of regaining loss.
Along the way, the mother is forced to choose between keeping her attachment to undue suspicion of truckers or doing what it takes to find her lost child. We are given the closest insight to the moral when the mother admits to her child that she had to give up her suspicion. The moral could be summed up as: “Trusting people leads to an open world, but suspicion incarcerates the world”. Often, the moral is open to interpretation within a limited range.

In this example, we see that three different morals are communicated in three different ways, ending with the last as the most important. However, we often seem to only notice the morals communicated through the atmosphere and not those that we are being subconsciously lead to accept. Perhaps it is true that bad morals are communicated on the surface, but the true gem lies in the ocean.

Something New is About to Happen

Keep close watch on The Filmmaker’s Circle. Something is about to happen that has not happened for an age.

Well, for us, anyway. A really large movie project is under way, as well as a couple of smaller ones. Stay tuned!

Conflicting Moods

A potentially powerful short film (note that there is no dialog), but can you tell why it’s not?

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